ISLAMABAD - Pakistan had borrowed around $61 billion from international lenders in last five and half years (from July 2014 to December 2019).

Pakistan had borrowed $24.427 billion from the multilateral development partners that constitute 40 percent of the total commitments. The new financing agreements $12.715 billion (21 percent) signed with the bilateral development partners to finance its development projects and implement structural and sectoral reforms in the country. In addition, the government had raised $16.272 billion (or 27 percent of total new agreements) from foreign commercial banks and $5 billion (8 percent) from  the international capital markets to support its balance of payments and budgetary requirements. The government also received $2,500 million from China in the form of deposits to enhance its foreign exchange reserves.

The details of the loans have revealed by Economic Affairs Division in ‘Sectoral Analysis of Foreign Economic Assistance’. The analysis stated that Pakistan is receiving foreign assistance for various sectors of the economy which ranges from energy/power to transport and communication; and from health and education to agriculture and rural development. Besides social and economic sectors, the government had received foreign funds for balance of payments and budgetary support.

One-fourth of total commitments were made in transport, communication sector

Eighteen Constitutional Amendments shifted responsibility to manage inter-alia health, education, agriculture, and rural development to the Provinces. Beside devolved subjects, the Federal government helped provincial governments to enhance development in health, education, agriculture and rural sector by arranging foreign aid for these sectors. During the review period, the Federal government arranged 4% each of total commitments for agriculture, rural development and poverty reduction, 3 percent for education, 2 percent for water and 1 percent for health.

During the period under review, $26. 803 billion were committed for budgetary/balance of payments support. Around two-third of total commitments for this sector were committed by foreign commercial banks, followed by international capital market investors and from China in the form of deposits. In addition, Asian Development Bank and World Bank also helped the government to initiate structural and sectoral reform programs.

Out of $24.427 billion of the total commitments were made by multilateral development partners, 95 percent of the commitments came from three major financial institutions namely: World Bank (38 percent), Asian Development Bank (37 percent) and Islamic Development Bank (20 percent). Similarly in the bilateral group, majority of new agreements were made by China (54 percent) followed by Saudi Arabia (26 percent), USA (6 percent), UK (4 percent) and France (4 percent).

To fulfil development needs, the government is receiving foreign aid for various sectoral developments. During the period under review, one-fourth of the total commitments were made in the transport and communication sector, followed by commodity financing, energy and power sector, governance, research and statistics and budgetary supports.

During the last five years, transport and communication remained an important sector which received $9.276 billion or 25 percent of total new commitments. Major reason behind its huge share was that during the period under review, Pakistan initiated various projects to improve its road infrastructure under CPEC which made this sector a priority sector. China under the umbrella of CPEC committed $5.913 billion (64 percent of total new commitments in transport and communication sector), ADB’s share was $2.143 billion and World Bank $825 million. Pakistan is amongst those developing countries that spend substantial amount of export earning to import petroleum products. A larger share of oil importing bill has significant impact on the balance of payments. One of the recipes for reducing pressure of import payments on foreign exchange markets is to defer the oil import payments. Consequently, the government signed agreements with International Trade Finance Corporation, an arm of Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Saudi Arabia to maintain supply of crude oil on defer payment basis. During the last five years, IsDB committed $4.598 billion and Saudi Arabia $3.240 billion for import of oil on defer payment basis.

Energy and power emerged as third largest sector in terms of new commitments of foreign aid during the last five years. Major funds committed for this sector were ADB $2.347 billion (39 percent), World Bank $2.102 billion (34 percent), China $576 million (9 percent) and AIIB $100 million (5 percent).

From multilateral and bilateral sources, one-fourth of total commitments were made in the transport and communication sector, one-fifth in commodity financing, followed by energy and power sector (16 percent), governance, research and statistics (9 percent). Despite the huge share of agriculture in our economy, only 4 percent of the new commitments were made for agriculture sector. Very limited commitments of foreign assistance were made for the social sectors, i. e. education (3 percent), health (1 percent), rural development and poverty reduction (4 percent). Portfolio of multilateral and bilateral development partners are also not diversified in terms of commitments made in various sectors of the economy. For example, 87 percent of new commitments from China are for transports and communication sectors. South Korea is having projects only in health, transport, energy and science and technology sectors.